I’m just going to ignore it. That’s okay isn’t it? Just pretend it’s not there. Or at least that I don’t particularly have to talk about it. I mean, what is there to say, and everybody else is already saying it anyway. I don’t have to chime in. (It’s not even just the politics. It’s more basic. It’s the thing about minimal competence. It’s like having a choice between a grown-up and a not very bright child to do a difficult job – designing a bridge, doing research into a new killer virus, figuring out how to get cookies right-side-up on a plate, that kind of thing – and choosing the child.) I don’t have to chime in so I’m not going to. I’m just going to bracket the whole damn thing for as long as it takes – the rest of my life, probably, and everyone else’s too. The gerrymandering thing makes it look as if the bastards are going to be there forever, busily drawing Congressional districts that look like pretzels or corkscrews or the finest old Brussels lace or a game of spillikins so that there will always always always be a Republican majority until Ozymandias returns from the dead and asks what –
Sorry, sorry, I said I was going to ignore it. And I am.
Actually Ozymandias is a good way to make the transition from what I don’t want to talk about to what I do. I didn’t mention him on purpose, he just came into my head, I suppose because I was thinking about eternity and forever-and-ever and metaphors and phrases for same – so there was Oz, sitting there smirking at me. ‘You wantcher metaphor for eternity? I’m yer man.’ So I grabbed him and stuck him into the sentence. I didn’t plot or plan it (that’s what I mean about ‘on purpose’ – not that it was an accident, but that there was no forethought involved), I didn’t form a deep design to mention a name that will be less familiar to some people than Lisa Simpson or Posh and Becks in order to make myself feel clever and grand and learned. I didn’t. But there are people who might suspect that I did. Or who might even firmly believe I did, and say so, and laugh uproariously and tease and mock and demand how many people I think will have the faintest idea who Ozymandias is. People who [voice rising like Tweedledee’s when he was so fussed about his nice new rattle] themselves refer often to names and concepts that I know nothing whatever about, but do I take it for granted they’re showing off and being pretentious and playing one-upmanship? Do I? Hah? Do I not rather simply think that I don’t know much and ought to know more and ought to do better and ought to fill in some of these gaps? Do I call them
No, I don’t, but they call me it, and when I flap my arms around like a heron and say I’m not I’m not, they draw diagrams that they claim show that I am. Hmph. What could be more elitist than that? I can’t draw diagrams that show people are what they say they aren’t, so therefore someone who can when I can’t must be an elitist. Obviously. Since that’s the definition in play.
Except actually it’s not, it’s a highly selective version of that definition that’s in play. It goes like this [I would draw a diagram if I could, but I can’t]: Anything that X mentions that might not be common knowledge is a symptom of elitism and anything that I mention that might not be common knowledge is a symptom of the fact that I know some things that are not common knowledge but I do it in an anti-elitist way. That has to be the case, a priori, because I’m anti-elitist and X is elitist, by nature. X has an elitist personality and I have an anti-elitist personality; these things are hard-wired.
I’m being slightly outrageous here, but only slightly, because that is pretty much how the argument goes. It’s a slightly outrageous argument, it seems to me (not to say waspish), so it seems only fair for me to be slightly outrageous too.
Anyway elitism and charges of elitism and resistance to perceived elitism are all subjects that interest me a lot and also that seem relevant to much of fashionable nonsense. Therefore I think the whole subject is worth exploring, and I intend to – I intended to make a start right here, but I got sidetracked into some mocking and teasing first and now this N&C is more than long enough and I have to run off, so this will have to do for the moment. Actually it’s not a bad way to start, despite the peculiar tone, because it does bring up some of the issues involved. What does make one kind of subject matter ‘elitist’ when another that is at least equally obscure or little-known or erudite is not? What makes one word (‘quotidian,’ say) elitist when others (teleology, contingency, sentient, omniscience, say) are not? That’s a real question. I have a feeling I know the answer (that nothing does, because they’re not different), but I could be wrong, and maybe you have some thoughts. If so, enlighten us – go on, it will take your mind off the vegetation in the White House.